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TECHNOLOGY

5Qs for CIOs and CFOs to Ask About Corporate Travel and Expense in 2023

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5Qs for CIOs and CFOs to Ask About Corporate Travel and Expense in 2023

How important is the relationship between technology and financial leaders?

Two words: game changer. Yet, according to Gartner, only “30% of CFO-CIO relationships can be described as strong digital partnerships – capable of outperforming their peers in financial management practices that are unique to funding digital.” One area where the two can work more closely together is travel and expense management. Why? Because business travel drives competition and revenue, and expenses are one of the largest sources of employee spending.

With greater distance between today and the pandemic, business travel continues to ramp up. Face-to-face is the new competitive advantage. One sales VP shared recently that he set down the theme for 2023 with his team: get off email and get in front of customers. 

The VP’s sentiments are affirmed by SAP Concur surveys of 100 U.S. finance managers (vice president and above) and 1,000 U.S. business travelers. They found that most finance managers (88%) said their company experienced a revenue loss over the past year—an average of $106,670—as a direct result of employees’ inability to travel at pre-pandemic levels.

Business travelers are on the same page about the necessity. Nearly half (44%) said that their company needed an increase in business travel to remain viable beyond 2022, 35% said the same for their career, and 30% said the same for their entire industry.

Yet, 2023 brings a whole new set of uncertainties – primarily economic. That’s why I’ve assembled five questions – or the 5Qs – CFOs and CIOs can explore together that give a fuller spending picture on business travel.

CIOs and CFOs in the Sandbox: 5Qs to Explore

Here are five questions for CIOs and CFOs to explore to contain costs, improve traveler experiences and more efficiently track expenses in real time.

1. Is the organization’s current expense solution unnecessarily using IT resources or outdated technology?

The old adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” holds companies back. An IDC research report found that roughly 80% of today’s AP managers’ time is spent on lower-level financial tasks, such as invoice matching, purchase requisition, and vendor management – all tasks that have the potential to be automated.

2. Is there a backlog of enhancement requests or report creation requests from users that cannot be addressed in a reasonable amount of time?

Finance isn’t seen as a sexy place to innovate by ERP providers. However, not investing in finance functionality is a mistake with long-term consequences. Companies that turn a blind eye and continue this path aren’t benefiting from the innovations being developed – from major cost savings across more areas of the business to growth opportunities for rising finance team talent.

3. Has the vendor of the technology announced an “end-of-life” strategy for the product? Or is the product in “maintenance only” mode?

Prepare for a technology’s “end of life” by transitioning to longer term solutions that create a more positive end-user experience, integrate travel data to give a company an end-to-end view of spend, or access to near, real-time data with insightful, visual reports.

4. Is the organization favoring solutions that increase the end-user experience?

According to a Forrester research report, “In the US, travel and expense software is considered the most important tool for enabling good employee experience.” The easier these processes are for employees, the more likely they will follow organizational protocols, budgets, and safety measures.

5. Is the organization capturing all employee spend data in one place? 

With multiple platforms capturing and aggregating all employee spend, companies risk not being compliant with government or industry regulations and increase their chances of fraud. It takes, on average, 14 months to detect a fraud scheme, according to an ACFE report. The big takeaway is: simplify. When finance has control and visibility into the details of where and how company dollars are spent, it becomes easier to detect fraud quickly.

Financial Transformation: It’s Real-Time All the Way!

The role of money is evolving. Whether it’s touchless or automated payments, blockchain or a shiny new cryptocurrency wallet, change is here. One prediction, however, by Deloitte is on point: Finance is going real-time. There will be less reporting and more real-time visualization. Here, technology offers solutions. 

SAP Concur’s findings back this up: business travelers want to see their company invest in adding or updating apps with real-time travel updates and booking (46%), tools for quicker expense reimbursement (43%), and tools for navigating the latest travel safety requirements (41%). A travel management system (40%) and an integrated system for travel and expense reporting (39%) round out their top five.

Finance managers themselves see change as inevitable. The study revealed that 100% said that their role has changed — and has become more challenging — since the start of the pandemic. 

Reasons include taking on additional work caused by staffing shortages (59%), additional auditing and paperwork requirements (45%), and new or added involvement in internal communications (45%). On average, they are spending six hours each week on these tasks. Tech solutions, like embedded machine learning and human verification, modernize finance. 

CFO-CIO Team Requires Solving for X Together 

Based on SAP Concur’s research, 66% of senior executives believe a strong partnership between IT and finance leaders enables the organization to remain agile in the face of unforeseen challenges. This I know: whether in my role as a parent, business advisor or board member, one of the best ways to get people pulling in the same direction is through a united pursuit of something bigger than themselves. 

Start with these five questions – and watch amazing things unfold. As CIOs and CFOs tackle big issues together, like balancing the benefits of business travel against a “do more with less” business environment, they cover more ground and help everyone, including the travelers themselves, arrive at a better destination.

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SAP Concur is a platform used by more than 46,000 businesses to connect financial data with greater spending control. I’ve used SAP Concur’s travel, expense and invoicing platform even before it was acquired by SAP in 2014. Learn more about SAP Concur solutions here.

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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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